December 8, 2023

Health P.E.I. says it’s improving vascular health services by offering virtual and in-person appointments with a visiting vascular surgeon, thanks to an arrangement with QEII’s vascular surgery department in Halifax.

Minor vascular procedures will be performed two days a month at Prince County Hospital by a visiting surgeon, while virtual and in-person appointments will be available about four days a week in Charlottetown. Vascular surgeons treat diseases and problems involving the network of arteries and veins carrying blood through the body. 

“We want to keep Islanders on P.E.I. as much as possible,” said Dr. Kathie McNally, chief medical officer for Health P.E.I. “The goal is to provide as much care as we safely can as close to home as possible.”

Patients with more complex cases will still have to travel off-Island. About 12 patients every month are sent off-Island for more complex surgeries. 

Julie Cole is a program development lead, helping with Health P.E.I.’s virtual appointments and visiting specialists. (Laura Meader/CBC)

“What we’re trying to do is prevent Islanders having to go off-Island for some of the investigations or pre-operative work that would need to be done,” said McNally. 

McNally said the combination of telemedicine appointments and regular visits from a vascular surgeon creates a more balanced model, which is good for patients and doctors. 

“We’re trying to create a model that keeps Islanders receiving their care on P.E.I. but also creates a sustainable model for the providers as well,” said McNally. 

McNally said it would be hard for P.E.I. to have its own vascular surgeon because of the requirement for specialized support staff, equipment and resources. 

Health P.E.I. expects 50 vascular appointments — in-person and virtual appoinments — in April. 

McNally said the hope is to expand the model to other specialty services. 

New clinic 

Many of the telemedicine appointments will happen at a new clinic set up in the Parkdale Medical Centre in Charlottetown.

The clinic has medical exam rooms set up with TV screens for virtual appointments. Other health-care staff will be on site to work with the vascular surgeon virtually or in-person. 

Dr. Kathie McNally, chief medical officer at Health P.E.I., said it’s tough for the Island to have its own vascular surgeon because of the need for support staff and resources. (Laura Meader/CBC)

McNally said Health P.E.I. has purchased a special ultrasound machine and camera to expand their diagnostic equipment.

“You can do an awful lot on telemedicine,” she said. “We have to keep looking at what else do we need to do? How else do we need to grow in order to expand what can be done by telemedicine in P.E.I.?” 

P.E.I. lost vascular surgeon more than a decade ago

A part-time vascular surgeon was offering some services but closed his P.E.I. office in February 2021. The physician was providing pre- and post-operation assessments and some non-surgical vascular services. 

P.E.I. lost its own vascular surgeon, who performed surgeries here, more than a decade ago. 

Green MLA and Opposition Health Critic Michele Beaton said it’s great to see Islanders getting accessible treatment. 

“Travelling over to Halifax has been a barrier to many Islanders so I’m happy to see that that’s been recognized and it’s now being made accessible for Islanders,” said Beaton. 

She would like to see more analysis of medical services provided on P.E.I. versus off-Island to determine what is most medically and financially effective. 

“Have we reviewed services that we send all Islanders off-Island to get?” asked Beaton.

“It’s good practice to assess where we are spending our money.” 

McNally believes people are more receptive to virtual care than they used to be. 

“When you can do the appointment on P.E.I. and you don’t have to travel, and you don’t have to worry about the weather and pay the cost of gas, parking and hotels … it’s a big difference,” she said. 


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